Only if you've got game | Inquirer Sports

Only if you’ve got game

With an eye on forming the country’s strongest team in years, PH volleyball looks beyond the candidate players’ social media hits
/ 02:35 AM January 29, 2017

You’re in if you’ve got game, not just fame. And oh, if you can come to the tryout, girl.

The requirements may be straightforward but the Larong Volleyball sa Pilipinas, Inc. (LVPI) is bent on sticking by them as it tries to pick players for the women’s national team seeing action in two tournaments, including the coming Southeast Asian Games in Kuala Lumpur.

“We do not pick depending on the popularity of the players or their past achievements,” says LVPI acting president Peter Cayco. “What we are looking for is their commitment and energy and the time they are willing to devote to training for the national team.”


The usual suspects are expected at the tryouts: Jaja Santiago, Dindin Santiago-Manabat, Jovelyn Gonzaga, Aby Maraño, Rachel Anne Daquis, Denden Lazaro, Kim Fajardo, Mika Reyes, Bang Pineda, Ara Galang and Myla Pablo.


Alyssa Valdez definitely has got game, but the country’s most recognizable volleybelle is out on a limb. She needs to convince her team in Thailand, where she now plays, to let her go back home so she could attend the selection process for the national team.

“She (Valdez) should come,” says national women’s team head coach Francis Vicente, also Valdez’s former coach in the University of Santo Tomas high school team that also included the Santiago sisters and Fajardo. “I mean, she’s not dealing with strangers (other candidate players). We know each other from way back.”

Now that may be too much to ask of Bangkok’s 3BB Nakornnont club, which is spending a fortune—reportedly to the tune of $5,000 (about P250,000) a month—to pay for Valdez’s services as an import in the Thailand League. The season’s first tournament got going last Jan. 15.

To her credit, though, the former Ateneo superstar has expressed delight in playing for the national team anew, telling Cayco she will skip the initial phase of the tryouts on Jan. 28 to 30 at Arellano Gym in Manila but expects to join the candidates in Cebu and Davao in February.

For a team sport that’s most anticipated by fans next only to basketball, the selection criteria may be a bit harsh on Valdez as well as the stars of Philippine Superliga and Shakey’s V-League, the country’s two major leagues. But Cayco says the LVPI has a vision to follow and that’s something hinged on concrete results, rather than social media hits.

Cayco says they will go this time for a younger bunch of players in a team that will have height as one of its strengths. “Of course, we need players with experience and who won’t be intimidated facing Thai players,” he explains. “But, generally, we are forming a new team built around young players.”


For sure, the 6-foot-5 Jaja and 6-foot-3 Dindin will be a force on any Philippine team. Jaja is only 21 while Dindin, who took a hiatus in the sport to give birth to her first child, is only 25.

“It’s a once-in-a-lifetime opportunity and I will not pass up the chance to represent the Philippines,” Santiago tells volleyball portal “But I will make sure I train very hard.”

The country’s finest players are all expected to join the three-day Arellano tryouts, although many of them are coy on their chances of making it to the final lineup. SEA Games veterans Maraño, Daquis and Lazaro, as well as Superliga stars Fajardo, Reyes, Pineda, Galang and Pablo are high on the list of candidates.

“As much as possible, we need height and talent,” says Vicente, who also coaches the University of the East women’s squad in the UAAP and Generika in the Superliga. “[They] will face tall players. Height has to be the main consideration. Plus [the candidates] have to show up in the tryouts.

“They have to realize that they are not carrying their clubs or schools anymore; it’s the Philippines they are representing this time.”

The country placed fourth two years ago in the Singapore Southeast Asian Games and Vicente’s main task now is to steer the team to the podium in Kuala Lumpur on Aug. 19 to 31.

Yet the Philippines is not just preparing for the SEA Games this year. LVPI is also hosting the Asian Seniors Women’s Championships in August. The plan is to select six veterans, six rookies and four reserves to form an 18-player pool.

“Basically, we need two teams, and we need to build a core,” says Cayco. “We need a pool from which we can get the players for those two international tournaments.”

Says Vicente: “If we are still not satisfied with what we see, we will still have another set of tryouts in Manila.”

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As it is, everyone has to fight for her spot on the team. No one’s a cinch unless she’s tall and young and handy.

TAGS: aby marano, Ara Galang, Bang Pineda, Denden Lazaro, Dindin Santiago Manabat, Jaja Santiago, Jovelyn Gonzaga, Kim Fajardo, Larong Volleyball sa Pilipinas, Mika Reyes, Myla Pablo, Peter Cayco, Philippine volleyball, Rachel Anne Daquis, Southeast Asian Games

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